Florida is site of first optical Internet exchange

Jan. 1, 2001


South Florida will soon boast the first next-generation optical Internet exchange-and the country's first network access point (NAP) will boast speeds ranging from DS-3 (44.736 Mbits/sec) to OC-192 (10 Gbits/sec) and beyond using DWDM technology. Announced last August by BellSouth Corp. (Atlanta) and several participating Internet service providers-such as Qwest, FPL Fibernet, and Intermedia, among others-the exchange is dubbed the Florida Multimedia Internet Xchange, or FloridaMIX.

With Internet traffic continuing to double every two or three months, BellSouth and others believe public NAPs are becoming more and more congested. Ultimately, this congestion could hinder the performance of mission-critical and commercial-quality applications over the public Internet. The addition of a high-speed, next-generation Internet exchange could bring the necessary relief.

According to BellSouth, FloridaMIX is the first NAP in the country to incorporate new optical technologies and represents a significant step toward next-generation multimedia applications over the Internet. BellSouth has coordinated the efforts and will host the new Internet exchange. The exchange's infrastructure will support new services, including voice over Internet, video over Internet, and other digital media and broadband capabilities.

The other public NAPs use ATM, which has a maximum user-side interface rate of OC-12 (622 Mbits/sec). BellSouth is the first to use Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), Ethernet, and SONET, in addition to ATM technologies, to increase the line speed on the user interface side for interconnection and the exchange of data traffic, known as public peering.

FloridaMIX will join other NAPs that provide major switching facilities for the public. Participating companies apply to use the NAP facilities and make their own intercompany peering arrangements.

BellSouth chose two optical equipment vendors to help implement FloridaMIX. Sycamore Networks (Chelmsford, MA) is supplying its SN 16000 intelligent optical switches and SN 8000 transport platform to build an optical mesh architecture capable of routing and re-routing data traffic in response to customer demand. Cisco Systems (San Jose, CA) was selected for its 12000 Series routers, ONS 15454 optical transport platform, Catalyst 6500 switching solution, and MPLS solution.

FloridaMIX intends to set a benchmark as the first NAP worldwide to use MPLS, a key enabler of new-world infrastructure, over Internet Protocol (IP). By deploying MPLS across the NAP, the core is effectively transformed into an interface-agnostic layer, or a generic IP core capable of supporting any mix of interfaces.

"The multiservice network architecture with the ONS 15454 platform enables BellSouth to provide IP services over optical infrastructure in a flexible fashion," says Sanjay Pol, director of marketing for Cisco's optical transport business. "The capital expense risk is mitigated by the 'Swiss army knife' design of the platform. This is an increasingly important decision-making criterion, especially as service providers have to become more discretionary on their spending."

Pol also believes FloridaMIX could be a catalyst for advancing optical technologies into Internet and data-centric applications. By planting the first stake in the ground, BellSouth is attracting attention from other service providers.

"From a Cisco perspective, the build-out of the metro optical space implies that fiber will be deployed closer to the edge than ever before," says Pol. "It is needed to get the maximum efficiencies of optical transport and provide the best-in-class value-added services."

BellSouth did its homework before deciding on Florida as the most strategic location for a new optical Internet exchange. About $48 billion in trade takes place annually between Florida and Latin America-and that figure is expected to increase dramatically as Latin America's technological growth triples every six months. As Latin America's e-commerce advances in the future, data traffic will rise sharply.

The current situation for supporting this growth in Internet traffic requires the use of Internet exchange points as far away as Washington, DC or the West Coast, creating a possibility for delays or latency for end users and retransmits for hosting/content companies. A better route that would minimize Internet delay was an obvious necessity.

In addition, several high-speed, trans oceanic fiber networks are currently under construction from Latin America, Africa, and Europe-all planning to land in South Florida. Fiber-based network companies like Qwest, which are building networks with huge capacities across the United States and the world, have facilities in Florida. These demographics make South Florida an advantageous location for FloridaMIX, and BellSouth recognized the opportunity.

BellSouth's technical design for the exchange involves multiple connection points throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. FloridaMIX's wide-area-network infrastructure will maximize connectivity to major Internet service-provider points-of-presence and other Internet-related businesses in the area.

The FloridaMIX Internet exchange's implementation began last summer, and the system is expected to go "live" this month. The scalability of the system will enable the turn-up of additional network capacity via software-an enviable feature in an environment where traffic demands double every two to three months.